Why Trump’s secretary of state nominee’s old marathon bombing comments have resurfaced

Elizabeth Warren says she will vote against Mike Pompeo's confirmation.

Senator Elizabeth Warren during a town hall moderated by Dorchester Reporter's Jennifer Smith at the Boston Teachers Union Hall in Dorchester. Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe (Metro, Desk)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren during a town hall Thursday in Boston. –Josh Reynolds / The Boston Globe

Mike Pompeo is set for a promotion. Following the unceremonious ousting of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the CIA director was nominated by President Donald Trump to step in as the United States’ next top diplomat.

But the former Kansas congressman won’t have the vote of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and part of the reason why dates back to the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing.

In a tweet Thursday, the Massachusetts senator said that Pompeo doesn’t hit the description of “a leader who will prioritize diplomacy.” In addition to his stances on torture and the Iran nuclear deal, Warren cited Pompeo’s controversial 2013 comments on the marathon bombing. She said he “scapegoated Muslim Americans” following the attack.

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In June 2013, Pompeo, then a Kansas congressman, took to the House floor to give a speech, in which he said the Muslim community was being “potentially complicit” for not speaking out against the attack, even though several prominent Muslim groups had repeatedly condemned violent extremism during the immediate hours and days after the bombing.

“It’s been just under two months since the attacks in Boston, and, in those intervening weeks, the silence of Muslim leaders has been deafening,” Pompeo said. “That is sad, but, perhaps most importantly, it’s dangerous.”

The Republican went on to say that he knew not all Muslims support violence, but said the religion’s leaders needed to more frequently reject violence. The comments have recently resurfaced as senators consider Pompeo’s nomination to replace Tillerson, with some Democrats and Muslim groups raising concerns.

Sen. Ed Markey, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, told The Boston Globe last month that he plans to ask Pompeo about the 2013 remarks.

“Director Pompeo’s remarks in the wake of the Boston terrorist bombing are deeply concerning and belie a lack of understanding of what is needed from America’s chief diplomat, whose job it is to build alliances and bridge differences,” Markey said.

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In a statement to The New York Times, the CIA said that Pompeo has “worked extensively and successfully to expand C.I.A.’s partnerships with countries throughout the Muslim world” and, in doing so, had “saved countless Muslim lives.” Asked if he wouldn’t “in any way discriminate based upon faith,” during his confirmation hearing for CIA director last year, Pompeo answered that it was “absolutely imperative” not to in order to partner with the United States’ foreign Muslim allies.

“You have my commitment that our workforce will continue to be diverse,” he said at the time. “I hope we can even expand that further, so that we can perform our incredibly important intelligence collection operations around the world.”

Pompeo’s confirmation hearing for secretary of state is reportedly expected to happen as soon as next week.